You would think Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn would have a soft spot for journalists. After all, he had a steamy love affair with a journalist more than 20 years his junior a couple of years ago.
Both were married and it created a little controversy in their community, especially because both violated ethical standards within their respective professions.
But Flynn proved to have no respect for the First Amendment rights of Fox6 news videographer Clint Fillinger, who was arrested Sunday while trying to cover a house fire.
Although the video clearly shows Fillinger had every right to continue videotaping when he was ordered away from the area and arrested, Flynn said he should have simply followed the sergeant’s orders – as unlawful as they were.
All four organizations have sent him letters and the NPPA sent him a follow-up letter in response to his moronic comments.
Although I have yet to receive a response to my letter dated 9/20/11 I have had an opportunity to listen to the comments you made to the Milwaukee media yesterday. I find it quite disturbing to hear you say that “if the cameraman had simply complied with the instructions, had simply complied with the instructions to back off from a working fire none of this hullabaloo would be taking place.” As is clearly evident from Mr. Fillinger’s video he was complying with the sergeant’s unlawful order when he was forcefully pushed to the ground and arrested. In case you did not have an opportunity to read the decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit that I sent, it is well established that the “fundamental and virtually self-evident nature of the First Amendment’s protections” guarantees the “right to film government officials or matters of public interest in public space.”
Perhaps Flynn is a little jaded about the media’s right-to-know after his fling with Jessica McBride, which became the talk of the town in 2009.
According to her 5,000-word article where she gushed about him endlessly, she states that he has a history of charming the media and others with whom he comes in contact, especially when he was being considered for the job.
She described it as Flynn’s “charm offensive.”
He stood out at the finalist interviews of the Fire and Police Commission, wowing its members with his intellect, national connections and communication skills. “Ed Flynn has the ability to talk a dog off a meat wagon,” says Mike Tobin, the Fire and Police Commission’s executive director and a former Milwaukee cop.
Flynn is also a compelling physical presence: tall, iron-haired, fit (he once rode a bicycle 233 miles) and energetic. He has what one observer calls “command bearing.”
The mayor was charmed. The vote by Barrett’s Fire and Police Commission appointees was unanimous. And within a few months of taking the job, Flynn had won over even aldermen who opposed his appointment, like Bob Donovan and Bob Bauman. “He’s very polished, very articulate, very sharp,” Bauman marvels. “I’m very high on him,” Donovan gushes.
Almost everyone seems to be. The police union. The head of the local NAACP. Community activists. Conservative talk show hosts. Groups that normally agree on nothing have all embraced the new chief.
Flynn can be blunt, yet charming; winningly persuasive, yet difficult to get to know. In Braintree, “he was aloof,” says Polio. “A hard-to-read person,” says Virginia White, a community activist in Springfield. His daughter notes that Flynn “keeps going into situations as an outsider, so that makes him hesitant sometimes to open up.”
Yet he always seems to charm the media. “There’s a puff piece everywhere he went,” Polio sniffs.
But it doesn’t appear as if he is going to charm his way out of this blunder.